The Porter County Parks and Recreation board voted Thursday to ask that the
Porter County Council give the parks department a share of the $9 million
received in interest from the sale of Porter Memorial Hospital.
The board voted 6-0 after Richard Maxey, chairman of the parks’ Land
Acquisition and Development Committee as well as the Parks Foundation, made
the argument that the proposed Brookdale Park and educational center/activit
barn at Sunset Hill Farm County Park will increase healthy lifestyles and
educational opportunities for residents, believing the bang is worth the
“What better way to spend the hospital money than to put it back into a
healthy lifestyle for our kids. It will serve not only our generation, but
for future generations yet to come,” said Maxey.
Board member David Canright made the motion including two parts: first, that
the board explains to the county council the importance of the projects and
second, that the parks superintendent and board president determine the best
way to communicate the message.
The board may schedule a joint meeting with officials or bring the matter up
at one of the three public forums the council is hosting in the coming
months to gather input on how the hospital money should be spent.
Speaking from the audience, Joe Kusiak of Valparaiso suggested the board
look at alternative ways for funding in case the council passes. “It’s a
one-dimensional aspect only going for the hospital funds,” he said.
Brookdale to Be
Due to the estimated $16-17 million for determined last month by consultants
JJR for the creation of Brookdale Park, Maxey said the development committee
is looking to construct the park in piecemeal fashion as funding comes in.
The committee and JJR are meeting next Monday at 5 p.m. at Sunset Hill Farm
to consider what should be the first phase of development. Maxey said the
group will also be brainstorming ways to put together a “financial package”
to cover expenses.
Proposed features for the active portion of the park, estimated at $12
million, include two baseball and two softball fields, soccer fields, and
picnicking and playground areas. The passive area tagged at $4.75 million
would feature hiking trails, possible interpretive centers, and a seven-acre
onsite lake with fishing and canoeing amenities.
The site sits on 65 acres across from the Liberty Twp. Elementary and
Intermediate Schools on CR 900N.
Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said the parks department will hold a
third public hearing probably in February to decide on a design with JJR.
That design will serve as the basis for the Master Plan of Brookdale which
is eyed for an April 2011 completion date.
On a related note, Lenckos announced there will be a public input session
for the Brincka-Cross Gardens Master Plan at the county building on
Wednesday, Jan. 26 at 4:30 p.m. hosted by landscape architects Lehman &
Raise the Barn
Maxey said the Parks Foundation has raised approximately $200,000 which will
be used to start the first phase of construction on the “Raise the Barn”
project. The building made to look like a barn will serve as an educational
Maxey said he hopes to have the contracts ready in the next few days for the
new building. The Parks Foundation is in the process of procuring a permit
from the state which is needed before construction can begin. The county
plan commission would also need to sign off on the plans, Maxey said.
If all goes accordingly, Maxey said groundbreaking for the educational
center could take place in April. A ceremony is in the works inviting
representatives from two private organizations who gave $5,000 each.
The Foundation is working to collect another $100,000 to cover the final
costs for the center. Maxey hopes publicity surrounding the groundbreaking
will get the ball rolling on gathering subsequent funds.
“With more publicity, it seems easier to raise funds,” he said.
The Foundation has also recruited grant writer Donna Blanchard to look for
organizations willing to provide financial support.
Plans for the center have been in talks since 1998. The center will be
located on the west side of where old dairy born used to be a Sunset Hill
Farm and will be constructed using “green and sustainable” features to
reduce operational costs.
The completed building will be used to house educational, recreational and
environmental programs primarily for children.
Also at the meeting:
• A gathering of residents showed up to question the circumstances that led
to the dismissal of a parks employee last month. Board President Rich Hudson
gave no comment, nor did any of the other board members. Board attorney
David Hollenbeck told the residents that the board is still acquiring
background on the matter and cannot make comment on personnel matters until
all the necessary information can be gathered. “We don’t want to rush to
judgment,” he said.
• Hudson was approved by the board to carry on as its president for 2011.
Also it was announced that Canright, who is managing editor at the
Chesterton Tribune, was renamed to the park board for another four years
by Porter County Judge Mary Harper.
• Hollenbeck reported a payment in the amount of $6,000 from Rhoda Farms was
received stemming from a cash-rent agreement over the use of the 65-acre
West Farm located near the county line on CR 1500N in Pine Township. The
parks purchased the land in 2006 at a state auction as a way to bring in
some income. The land was used as prison farm by the Indiana Department of
Corrections. Hudson told the Tribune there currently are no plans to
use the land other than leasing it for farming and said he’d like to keep
focused on the parks’ current development projects to ensure those succeed.
• Lenckos said he will next week select candidates for two new full-time
positions with the department, a communications director and a programmer.
• The department recently was able to obtain 35 bike racks through a tourism
grant, Lenckos said. He also expects to acquire new signage for the Calumet
Trail this spring.